July 31, 2021

USDA Withdraws Controversial Poultry Line Speed Rule

On Friday, January 22, 2021, the USDA withdrew a controversial poultry line speed rules from the previous administration that would have rolled back line-speed standards at poultry plants. The first such proposal was made by the Obama administration in 2012.

USDA Withdraws Controversial Poultry Line Speed Rule

At the time, and over the last nine years, food safety experts and consumer advocates have opposed increasing these speeds, which whip poultry carcasses past inspectors at three birds per second. Executive Director of Food and Water Watch’s Wenoah Hauter, said in a statement, “Such speeds would have made it nearly impossible for inspectors to properly due their jobs and ensure food safety and public health.”

She continued, “We’re pleased that the Biden administration has resisted the bidding of the immensely powerful corporate poultry lobby, at least for the moment. As if forcing poultry workers into crowded, unsafe plants during the COVID pandemic wasn’t bad enough, the Trump administration’s proposed line-speed rule would have been a senseless giveaway to the industry at the expense of Americans’ health and safety. Nothing is more egregious.

“But this is just the first of many steps the USDA must pursue to demonstrate a long-term commitment to prioritizing public health and safety over corporate profits. Given Secretary Tom Vilsack’s record, we must be diligent and aggressive in holding this administration accountable – on everything from future line-speed decisions to the foolish trend of turning over federal inspection of meat and poultry plants to companies themselves. Allowing profit-driven corporations to inspect their own operations would be a gross dereliction of duty by the USDA.”

Chicken has been the vector for food poisoning outbreaks many times in the past ten years. It is often contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

In 2018 and 2019, a deadly multidrug resistant Salmonella Infantis outbreak linked to many types of raw chicken sickened at least 129 people in 32 states, hospitalizing 25 patients. One death was reported from New York.

In 2018, the Fareway Foods chicken salad Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak sickened at least 265 people in 8 states; one person who lived in Iowa died.

Also in 2018, a Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- outbreak linked to kosher chicken sickened at least 17 people in four states. Eight people were hospitalized, and one person who lived in New York died.

In 2015, a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak linked to raw, frozen stuffed chicken breasts by Barber Foods sickened at least 15 people in 7 states. Four people were hospitalized.

It’s up to consumers to be the final step protecting people from food poisoning when preparing chicken. Always handle chicken carefully. Bring it home quickly from the grocery store and get it into the fridge as soon as possible.

Do not rinse it before cooking, since that just sprays pathogens around your kitchen. Cook it to 165°F and use a food thermometer to check that temperature every time. Be careful of cross-contamination between raw chicken, its juices, and foods that are eaten uncooked. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw chicken. And always clean and sanitize your kitchen, the counter, utensils, and appliances after working with raw chicken.

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